DVD Review: Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings Complete Season 2
Features all 13 episodes of the show’s second series on 2 discs!
While it is no secret amongst anime fans, that anime which have built their foundations on successful gaming empires don’t always create their own success removed from the world of fandom, those few that develop their own relatable characters and complex, gripping plots can see themselves become accomplished in their own right. As someone with no previous experience of the Sengoku Basara series of games, I was interested to see if this series could carve its own place as a strong anime series.
For those not familiar with the series, Sengoku Basara is a historical anime very roughly based on the history of feudal Japan. Following on from the dramatic defeat of Nobunaga Oda, the sixth devil king and former threat to a peaceful, unified Japan, the second season of Sengoku Basara begins by throwing the viewer straight onto the battle field, as the land of the rising sun is left free for the taking, with each of the lords of the warring states wanting to claim it as their own. While the first season awards a show an audience, it’s up to the second to give them a reason to stay.
Luckily, the season one finale allowed Sengoku Basara to lead fluidly into a second season, while still maintaining a sense of finality. Introducing a whole host of new lords and characters, who wish to claim Japan for their own, Sengoku Basara Two returns to the classic format as new alliances, strategies and battle plans are formed. With the seemingly unstoppable Toyotomi army on the rampage no-one stands a chance alone. In this season, we see Yukimura travel to the West to Kyushu, on behalf of the Kai clan, to try and form an alliance with the war hero Ujimasa, escape the Toyotomi army and attack from the rear. While other threats to the Toyotomi army arrive such as the ruthless, pirate Chosokabe, who teams up with Date in order to protect his island Shikoku.
So what does Sengoku Basara offer an already saturated samurai anime market? Firstly, some devastatingly self indulgent battle scenes to satisfy even the most animalistic voyeur, with lightning fast clashes of blades and devastating blasts of chi (or in Matsu case summoned bears.) That said, it lacks a sense of anticipation that could have been achieved if more characters, who you felt a sense of connection to, were laid to waste in the midst of battle. As it is, you feel a sense of security knowing that your favourite characters will recover from their seemingly fatal war wounds, which isn’t particularly a good thing, if like me you watch anime for the emotional rollercoaster it often offers. Even the ever bland and perfectly dispensable Oichi, who died at the last season’s close, is resurrected with little to no explanation just a few episodes in.
Sengoku Basara Two introduces a lot of interesting and diverse new characters for us to feast our eyes and enjoy, my favourite being the playful yet naive Miyamoto Musashi, whose youthfully misplaced confidence is quite charming. But this was at the expense of old friends such as Katakura who is imprisoned and then simply disappears for several episodes, and Takeda who is barely present, pinned in place by the oncoming forces. Even characters, which were at the forefront of the previous series, such as Kasuga seem to take a sideline. The many gimmicks introduced in the first season, such as the Tiger’s and Yukimura’s playful fights and screams of each others’ names, Kasuga immobilising infatuation at Lord Kenshin’s touch and the one eyed Dragon’s ridiculous riding style and nonsensical English battle cries, all seem to have fallen at the wayside in this season, as the series takes on a more serious tone.
The creators have clearly tried to improve on the mindlessness of the plotline from the previous series, which simply showed the characters moving towards their one goal of defeating Oda and all the dramatically bone breaking battles that led to it, by adding complex battle strategy, which is often tediously explained, and an overwhelming amount of characters into the mix. This is all in order to aid an emotional connection between viewer and series, encourage them to engage with characters and give some sort of philosophical context. This energy could have been better spent giving the Sengoku Basara fans more of what they want, more of the aggressive and brutishly enjoyable battle scenes, which the series does so well.
Despite this seeming criticism, one area where this anime excels is it’s detailed, vibrant and explosive animation, which while not unique or groundbreaking, is a delight to watch and sets off the unending rampage of glorious carnage, all perfectly complimented, by the boom-bastic rock beats which act as an extra blast of chi to get the audience riled up.
Does Sengoku Basara Two have the complex plotlines of Death Note? The gripping, perfectly balanced soundtrack of Ghost in the Shell? Or the love/hate characters of Elfen Lied? Well no. But it is certainly a guilty pleasure that does what it does very well. Fans of the original series who just wanted a little bit more … feeling … will surely be big BIG fans of this new series, though some will definitely feel that the series’ new found complexity takes away from the sheer pleasure of simply turning your mind off.
Label: Manga Entertainment
Release date: 17th September 2012
Director: Kazuya Nomura
Review written by Georgina Young